She stares at her reflection in silver as she washes it. Long white hair, so straight and wiry that it stubbornly escapes the coiffure she puts it in, sticking out at awkward angles and falling into a face thick with wrinkles. Her skin was lovely once, but that was taken from her, leaving age spots and a mottled, prune husk in its place.
The soap burns the dry, flaccid skin on her hands, but she ignores it. He’ll be here soon. So very soon.
“It’s time,” Kris says. Kris is a huge man, with broad shoulders brushed by his lustrous black hair. His long beard falls over his chest in smooth black curls. His skin shows no sign of the weather. Kris puts his arms around her, his voice deep and warm as he whispers to her, “One last kiss before I go.” His lips brush her neck, and she can feel her joints stiffen, vertebrae crack with age and time. She’s growing deaf with his end-of-year affection, and breathes winded sighs of relief when he finally leaves. Bells ring as he pulls away.
She hobbles to the door using a twisted and gnarled oak branch as a cane. By the time she reaches the front door Jack is there, waiting. His breath freezes in the air, becoming minute shining crystals locked together in a latticework that shatters and melts with the next breath. His hair is long, ash blond, nearly as white as the fine features of his face with its pointed chin and nose. Narrow ash-colored brows over pale grey eyes, pink lips framing small, perfectly white teeth; Jack is beautiful, as he is always beautiful when he arrives.
Jack takes her in his arms and kisses her fiercely. His kiss burns, his grasp is painful, and she clutches him back as tightly as her withered arms permit. With his first touch her joints loosen, her back straightens. She pulls him into the house and clings to him with joy and relief built of a year’s absence.
It is the longest night of the year. The solstice is but three days gone, and this night will stretch itself until Kris returns. The stars will swing their way across the sky overhead, but she is with Jack, and this longest night will be glorious. Jack pulls the pins from her hair, runs his fingers through it as he pulls it loose. It becomes pliable at his touch, relaxed and lustrous. He brushes it with his long fingers leaving auburn curls in his wake.
By midnight they lay together, naked on a bed of furs, caressing and sharing tales from their year of long and miserable separation. She relishes the feel of fur against smooth, creamy skin, of stretching lazily over Jack’s slender body, of firm breasts against the wiry, white hair of his chest.
They are exhausted by morning as they rise from the bed, wrapping themselves in furs against the cold, murmuring lover’s nonsense to each other. She helps Jack gather his clothing from the floor, does the buttons his ancient fingers are too clumsy to handle. It takes only a moment to slip a silk and lace gown around her slender, curving figure. She relishes the feel of the fabric against her shoulders, her hips. Jack uses a knobby oak branch as a cane, and her firm, loving grip on his arm, as support to hobble out into the cold. The moment he steps outside, ice forms around his lips and eyes, coating his hair until sunlight casts rainbows through it.
Kris returns just as Jack disappears into the trees, old and whitened by his journey. His joints creak as he paces toward the house, his frame unsteady under a bulk of soft fat. He wraps her in his arms, kissing her deeply. Cold seeps into her bones, and she thinks of Jack, longing already for next year.